Learning to cook healthy is part of eating healthy which is a must for healthy living! While this article is written by a reader in a foreign country, I think anyone can benefit who is looking to eat healthier.
Sara's journey through different countries with different foods and the challenges she has faced is really an inspiration!
After writing How to Eat Healthy, I received several emails with questions about what particular steps to take to do it.
I also received an encouraging email from a longtime reader, Sara, detailing the steps she took to get started with REAL food after being introduced to Nourishing Traditions.
I thought everyone would enjoy hearing her story. And, not just enjoy it, but learn from it.
If you are new to healthy eating and are just learning to cook healthy, or you are a seasoned cook, there are tips for us all.
And, now, here is Sarah!
Learning to Cook Healthy in Different Countries
... So, there I was, standing in my tiny, cold, corner and crevice-stained kitchen, cooking the only thing I knew how to cook, yet again.
It had been a month in our new home and all I knew how to cook was a stir fry recipe I'd gotten from the back of a box of rice.
Everything I knew about cooking from growing up in Texas was no help to me in China. I had to learn all over again how to cook everything.
Even the rice was different!
I was depressed.
It seemed that I just kept cooking the same thing over and over again because the available ingredients were so different!
I had no access to butter, no access to cheese... How in the world is a southern girl from Texas supposed to cook anything without butter and cheese???
Frankly, I was lost.
I was seriously depressed for a month!
Fast forward one year and I had it DOWN.
I learned to strain yogurt (yes, we had plenty of yogurt and milk,) and make something that tasted like sour cream, strain it even longer and I had something akin to cream cheese!
Since I was even helping other ex-pats learn to cook the same yet new foods that we all thought we knew how to cook. I had all kinds of confidence.
Then, we moved to Turkey... suddenly I was in a world of dairy products
I hadn't had access to for so long and I was in heaven!
I learned even more about using all kinds of new ingredients. Cooking became a hobby. I loved it and I loved that I knew what I was doing!
Enter Nourishing Traditions to Help
Then, during a year in the states for education purposes, I started reading a book (which I purchased from my affiliate partner), Nourishing Traditions and found out... STUFF
It seemed that everything I was doing in my kitchen was wrong. How I was cooking and what I was cooking was possibly causing health problems within my family!
I needed to start over and learn everything yet AGAIN!
And for a month, again, I was depressed, afraid to cook anything, but had no choice as a wife and mother of two...
I decided I had to tackle this slowly.
Since I couldn't throw everything out and just start from scratch, we didn't have the money for that. I didn't have the heart for that.
So I started with fats. First, I used up all of the yellow oil and margarine we had and I never bought it again.
Then, I bought only real butter and extra virgin cold pressed olive oil.
I used up the rest of our mixes and processed, pre-prepared foods and just didn't replace them when they ran out. I found recipes to make anything like that I wanted out of fresh ingredients.
When we returned to Turkey, I learned new vocabulary to buy the new things I was using.
5 Steps to Learning to Cook Healthy
1. Replace Bad Food with the Good Food
Then I decided to learn how to use one new good food to replace every month. I needed a full month to really learn the new item and know how to use it well.
Month by Month
I started with rice. I stopped buying white rice and learned how to use brown. Once I got rice down, I moved on.
The next month, I learned how to use whole wheat in place of bleached, all-purpose flour.
No, I didn't start right away with soaking it.
I felt I needed to learn how it affected things differently. Knowing that it would make things more dense and give them a new texture, I wanted to learn how to use it in place of white flour so I'd be better prepared later.
I had to take baby steps or I didn't think I'd have been able to really know what I was doing.
Once I learned how to use whole wheat flour, I learned how to use honey instead of white sugar.
I read about sugar in Turkey and found that sugar here is made from sugar beets, (hence the weird odor,) and didn't think I'd be able to find raw cane sugar. I have since found raw cane sugar here! It's very expensive so I can't use it often...
Then I had another baby. Since then, I've had to put some things on hold.
Now that my husband has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, he has decided to start the GAPS diet.
So learning to soak flour may be further in the future than I had planned, but since I've walked this road as far as I have, it's making getting into GAPS easier.
Continue to move from one healthy food choice to another learning to fully utilize and cook with it.
2. Add Fermented Foods for Their Probiotics
Next, we began adding in plenty of fermented foods for their probiotics. WOW, were we surprised at how good they made us feel!
Dina-Marie: Be sure to check out Getting Started with Fermented Foods for some great tips and recipes to add these powerhouse foods into your diet.
3. Add Bone Broth
It was amazing to find that people in other countries also use bones to make broth. After learning about the health benefits, I started making it and it my new friend.
Dina-Marie: Be sure to check out the following posts on bone broth.
- 15 Health Benefits of Bone Broth - Find out just how good for you it is!
- How to Make Bone Broth - Watch the video for step-by-step instructions.
- How to Make Chicken Broth - Making broth can be done several different ways - watch the video to find out!
4. Educate Yourself
There are a lot of resources available when it comes to healthy eating and learning how to eat healthy. Healthy living is a marathon, not a sprint.
Take your time to implement changes that will stick.
5. Try New Healthy Recipes
Variety is the spice of life! So, don't get stuck in a rut. Be adventurous and try new recipes. Whether they are specifically for a certain diet or just a recipe without processed ingredients - give it a try!
New Challenges with Learning to Cook Healthy
I can tell you this, while the changes that need to happen are very difficult, not always convenient, and are a little more work, it IS possible.
I've learned to cook three times now, and I think I'm now able to see more hope than ever that I can supply the healthiest meals for my family possible.
I have been able to take several recipes that have been family staples and tweak them so that they are Nourishing Traditions compliant.
If you feel overwhelmed, you are not alone. Many of us have felt the same way.
But keep moving forward, as "The Robinsons" would say, and take baby steps. Just change one thing at a time and when you are ready and feel confident with it, make another change.
Eventually, you'll look back and have trouble even remembering why you felt so overwhelmed.
Sara Warren lives in Istanbul, Turkey, with her husband and three children. When she is not busy caring for her children, she can be found studying Turkish and cooking all kinds of traditional foods. She enjoys singing, playing the piano, learning about history, and making new friends.
What About You - How Did You Learn to Cook Healthy?
Leave a comment - I would love to know!
What an inspiring and encouraging post! Sara, I have no doubt you'll master GAPS too, all while enjoying delicious real food.
My friend... I am so proud of you for making the health of your family a priority! You will be blessed.